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Themes | Essays

Dance of the African Diaspora

An Introduction By

John Perpener

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Jazz Dance, Music, and the Importance of Swing

The relationship between jazz dance and its accompanying music is a defining characteristic of the dance form. This essay explores the relationship between jazz dance and its accompaniment through the work of Katherine Dunham and Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, Danny Buraczeski, LaTasha Barnes, Lee Howard, and Caleb Teicher.

Uncovering Jazz Elements in the Work of Contemporary Choreographers

The elements of jazz are embedded in the fabric of American culture. This essay explores the jazz elements found in the work of contemporary dance artists of the African Diaspora.

African-Americans in Ballet at Jacob’s Pillow: The Dance Theatre of Harlem

While focusing primarily on Arthur Mitchell and Dance Theatre of Harlem, this pioneering company's Pillow performances are juxtaposed with other ballet artists of color, from Maria Tallchief to Misty Copeland.

Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE

This exploration of Brown's earliest Pillow performances considers themes of faith, family, and same-sex desire, as well as formative African and Cuban influences.

Black Dancers in the Berkshires

Any full history of black dancers at Jacob's Pillow must include its antecedents in the Underground Railroad era, exemplified by Joanna Haigood in her site-specific production, Invisible Wings.

Tracing Social and Political Activism

With particular emphasis on Katherine Dunham and Alvin Ailey, this essay examines how dance artists have addressed social concerns through their work, especially since the 1940s.

Savion Glover

Having long ago proved that he could do pretty much whatever he wanted in tap, Savion Glover is also ever mindful of his tap ancestors who forever live on through his performances.

Talley Beatty

Beatty’s life as a black man who grew up in a racially-divided America was a lasting and volatile influence on the dances he created, as evidenced by Pillow performances from 1948 to the present day.
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